Nearly two years ago, Daniel Alexander died in a car wreck on state Highway 14 in Vancouver. Alexander, 46, was a passenger, and the man behind the wheel was under the influence of Clonazepam, a nervous system depressant, at the time of the crash.
Alexander’s son, Joshua Alexander, said he expected the man who caused his father’s death to receive anywhere from five to 10 years in prison for his crimes. Instead, driver Kenneth L. Jones was sentenced in July to 24 months following a plea deal that shortened his potential sentence by more than four years.
“He was facing vehicular homicide, and to only get two years, I just don’t get it,” Alexander said. “It was a slap on the wrist.”
Jones’ criminal case is just one of the 97 percent of all such cases heard each year in Clark County Superior Court that are resolved through plea bargaining, and it highlights the struggle for crime victims who feel they are not getting justice. At the same time, attorneys and other experts maintain that plea deals are essential to the criminal justice system because there aren’t enough resources to bring every case to trial.
“Research shows without plea bargains, the system would come to a grinding halt,” said Jeff Barrar of the Vancouver Defenders. “If there were no plea deals, there would be no incentive to plead guilty.”